A Look Back at How Telcos Used to Respect Privacy

On BoingBoing, Cory links to a post by UPenn professor and researcher Matt Blaze drawing from his personal experience from back in the days of Bell Labs. Blaze shares a scan of an old policy document that he juxtaposes against the current climate. As he explains, he is working on a paper discussing the potential hazards inherent in recent telecommunications legislation along with several other notable researchers and academics, right as Congress is contemplating making the measure in question permanent. At issue is the question of immunizing telcos that turned over customer information without proper judicial oversight.

What Blaze doesn’t entertain are explanations as to how and/or why this industry has gone from this:

respect for customer privacy was once a deeply rooted point of pride in the corporate ethos. There was no faster way to be fired (or worse) than to snoop into call records or facilitate illegal wiretaps, well intentioned or not. And it was genuinely part of the culture; we believed in it, even those of us ordinarily disposed toward a skeptical view of the official company line.

To “just another bit of cynical, focus-group-tested PR”. Is it just market serving or is there more to it? I don’t know, I’d actually like to have read the thoughts of someone who has been around the industry that long.

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